Now that Tom Brady is back, it’s anyone’s guess as to what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will do with the 27th overall pick in the NFL Draft. They might opt to select a win-now piece, a “pro-ready” player that can help bring the franchise back to the Super Bowl this year. Or the front office may instead take a long-term approach, and pick a prospect with immense potential. The ultimate questions is whether the organization will continue to mold the roster around the 44-year-old Brady, who is most likely gone at the end of the season. However Tampa chooses to bolster its roster, their decision will have a lasting impact on the team (and its rivals) for years to come. Keeping all that in mind, here is how I would use my top three picks if I were the Buccaneers front office.
Who Should the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Draft in 2022?
Round 1, Pick 27: Zion Johnson, Guard – Boston College
Defensive help or a quarterback successor may have made sense here, but Tampa sticks with the best player on their board in Johnson, a three-year starter on BC’s offensive line. Having lost both of their starting guards from last season (Alex Cappa to the Bengals in free agency and Ali Marpet to retiement), general manager Jason Licht reinforced the position by acquiring Shaq Mason from the Patriots. Still, that leaves another guard spot open. Johnson, a fast riser on most draft boards, is a smart, versatile player with immense physical skills. His stout pass-blocking will help keep Brady upright for a year, then do the same for whatever rookie Tampa may draft next season. With Johnson and right tackle Tristan Wirfs in tow, the Bucs will have two young hog mollies to build their offense around for years to come.
Round 2, Pick 60 – Cameron Thomas, Defensive Lineman – San Diego State
Although William Gholston is nearing a return, the Bucs defensive line is lacking talent following the departures of Ndamukong Suh, Steve McLendon, and Pat O’Connor in the offseason. Cameron Thomas is raw, but if he reaches his potential, the SDSU alum is capable of filling a variety of holes across the line. With a 6’4″, 270-pound frame, Thomas can bull-rush the edge or pressure passers from the interior, perhaps giving Vita Vea some occasional rest on passing downs. The junior broke out in 2021, notching 10.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss. While it was his first and only “dominant” year in college, you can bet defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is itching to add a player of Thomas’ talent to his 3-4 scheme.
Round 3, Pick 91 – John Metchie III, Wide Receiver – Alabama
Rather than a true need, like backup running back or another young quarterback, the Bucs decide to go for a high-risk, high-reward option at wideout. While there is some ability amongst Tampa’s receivers not named Chris Godwin or Mike Evans, none possess Metchie’s route-running ability. Similar to Antonio Brown, Metchie is smart enough to find open areas downfield for Brady even when his top targets are covered, and has shown improvement on contested catches. The downside here is that Metchie, Alabama’s second-leading receiver last season, tore his ACL in December. While there is a real chance that he can’t suit up for the start of the season, that shouldn’t be a major issue for a Tampa team expected to dominate the NFC South in 2022. As long as Metchie is healthy and ready to make an impact in the postseason, this is a gamble worth making for Licht.